World Hijab Day: Strangely authentic, deeply disturbing?

Published: September 4, 2012

While demanding that the Hijab be made compulsory in the constitution, JI activists in Multan felt no qualms carrying a banner that read, “Hijab is my choice not my compulsion’. PHOTO: FILE/EXPRESS

Scrounge for your scarf; dig out that dupatta – its World Hijab Day!

You may have heard of ‘World Health Day’, and certainly of ‘World Population Day’ and perhaps even of ‘World Literacy Day’. But before today you may not have heard of ‘World Hijab Day’.

Unlike ‘Earth Day’ or ‘World Cancer Day’, though, ‘World Hijab Day’, has not, as you might initially think, been decreed by the UN, the organisation which earmarks certain days for international observances, designed to further its goals of world peace and social progress.

No, World Hijab Day has in fact been declared by Pakistan’s biggest religious political party Jamaat-i-Islami to “counter the infidels’ conspiracies against the Islamic tenets”. The way to do that is by urging women (presumably) to wear a hijab and cover themselves up real good at all times.

That’s right, that ‘counters’ the conspiracies of infidels, and doesn’t validate them.

How does one begin to express the pleasure one derives from this?

The Ameer (head) of the Jamaat-i-Islami pooh-poohing the double standards of ‘the west’ and hijacking the discourse of modernism and human rights to further a concept that would be anathema to most liberals. This is a most delicious situation.

Is this sly, deliberate subversion on the part of the Jamaat-i-Islami?

Is the religious right appropriating the concept of ‘choice’, ‘rights’ and ‘human dignity’ to mock modernism itself?

I would be tempted to believe that, but I’ve met these guys.

This is not a critique of modernism – the sloganeering is earnest (if conviction-less) and these guys are just as modern as your next secular-liberal-feminist-freethinker.

“Dress to please God, not men,” tweets the JI South Karachi, adding,

“Hijabi by choice.”

Another hijabi tweets,

“Hijab is my choice”, adding, a little while later,

“Hijab is my protector.”

“Perfect opportunity to educate my non-Muslim mates on Hijab,” says another tweeter.

But it is not just the feelings of earnest adherents that World Hijab Day has stirred. Sure enough, the liberal socialist brigade has jumped in the fray, starting a hashtag – ReasonsToPutMenInBurqas.

While JI has hijacked the concepts of modernism, it has not had to turn to it to supply contradictions and inconsistencies. So while demanding that the Hijab be made compulsory in the constitution, JI activists in Multan felt no qualms carrying  a banner that read,

“Hijab is my choice not my compulsion.”

Despite all this, World Hijab Day feels strangely authentic, and that might be the most disturbing thing. Free thinking is not what it used to be …

Read more by Batool here, or follow her on Twitter @batool1767 


Batool Zehra

A sub-editor on the magazine of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Amina Shah

    If I may respond to this Batool, I’ve known this day for many years now. It was the ban in France for headscarves that initiated this Hijab day globally. Read the following paragraph please:

    “An International Hijab Day was observed in many places of the world under “Assembly for Protection of Hijab”, an organization formed as a result of conference, held on Jan 2004 at London, under the supervision of Allama Yousaf Al Qarzawi. This conference was attended by more than 300 scholars from all over the world and decided to call for observance of International Hijab Day on 4th September, of every year, as a day of solidarity with all women around the world who face racism and religious intolerance by being prevented from wearing their Hijab/religious dress as they freely choose to do. This day is also celebrated to commemorate the shocking crime against Marwa Shirbini and to defend the right of Muslim Women to wear the Hijab/religious dress everywhere in the world. It will also be an opportunity to present the beauty of Islamic teachings and the pride of Muslim women as positive shapers of their communities.”

    I am a Hijabi myself for 12 years now and been living in The Netherlands since I was born. I am free to wear it everywhere, in the office, governmental buildings, malls etc. My request to JI would be to stop enforcing women to wear it; this is a very personal choice – it must come from within. To start with, tell them to force men in Pakistan to lower their gaze – hahah that’d make a woman feel so much safer ;)Recommend

  • Sarah

    Please get your facts right. World Hijab Day is not the brainchild for Jamaat Islami. September 4th 2004 was marked as International Hijab Solidarity day in response to France banning pupils at state schools from wearing religious symbols.
    This is my first year as a hijabi, alhamdulillaah. Yay for Hijab Day.Recommend

  • Loneliberal PK

    I would’ve been glad to take this day seriously, if I believed that the hijab is an endangered garment.

    In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, hijab is, and has always been, considered a symbol of piety. If you want to know what opposition feels like, try wearing tight jeans in public.

    It would’ve made far more sense for jeans-clad women to parade through the streets, bearing signs screaming, “Skinny Jeans are my choice! Not a compulsion!”

    It is mind-boggling how our religious parties get to oppress AND play the victim card at the same time?Recommend

  • Fazian

    excellent!!! Nice to hear a voice over secular-liberal-feminist-freethinker’s din.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    @Loneliberal PK:
    Spot on!Recommend

  • http://na deep

    I am a non-muslim mother of two daughters. And my first instinct when I see a young muslim girl with her Hijabi mother, is pity.

    It will probably take your daughters or their daughters, far removed from this wave of Islamophobia that has spurred so many women to wear the hijab almost as a mark of pride/protest/identity, to realise that no man or religious book has the right to look at you merely a object of sexual desire by men.

    By wearing the scarf – you are basically saying that men cannot control themselves and this piece of cloth will get them to respect me. Seriously?

    If men stare at me – it is their problem. And most men have what you call self-control – please give them more credit. And believe me, other than the odd groping in public transport, we have been pretty ok. and yes, we take the normal precautions of ensuring that we are not victims of more heinous crimes – but for one moment, do not believe that the scarf is going to stop a man from raping you if that is his intent.

    By wearing the scarf you are underscoring the popular notion that the onus for not being raped is on the women. Recommend

  • habib tahir

    aww the poor liberals got hit veally veally hard :DRecommend

  • Shah

    While demanding that the Hijab be made compulsory in the constitution, JI activists in Multan felt no qualms carrying a banner that read, “Hijab is my choice not my compulsion’.

    are you suggesting that JI is full of hypocrites? :) if yes, then I second you.Recommend

  • International Observer

    wearing a scarf in many ways makes a woman less attractive than if she were without it. Beauty must be appreciated, not disguised in hideous clothing. its nature than created a man to be attracted to the opposite sex. Yet men respect women, and are not about to attack them because they have discarded the hijab.
    Frankly, islam is unfair to women.Recommend

  • nitish

    LoL….Oh i can see.This is a world wide problem with muslims.They want to keep their girl covered with Burqa,Hijab.But interestingly they always love to marry a non-muslim girl.Reason unlike muslim girl they r not so dumb. Hypocrisy at its best .Recommend

  • Ali

    Pathetic! who is forcing you to wear Hijab? It’s the day you need to realize what hijab matters for you as a man and as a woman. It’s the day to spread this awareness.. not for any compulsion or any forceful measureRecommend

  • Ali

    While an article should have published how women and Muslims feel, world-wide, about Hijab and its cultural and legislative issues, ET has sported an article which only discusses the campaign, not the feelings about it.
    No doubt ET would remain a clique if it does not support issues faced and felt by common men/women.Recommend

  • LiberalPakistani

    Great one, I highly support ban on HIJAB and wish to see all Pakistani girls celebrating
    “GO TOPLESS DAY” in August next year !!! :)
    Women should walk around with whatever they want to wear, and I would always support and encourage them to wear only stuff what pleases us the most :) Recommend

  • Dr Shaikh

    This blog makes me sick and exposes ET more. Carry on your Enmity against Islam. Your dollars funding speak. The good thing is, IT HIT YOU HARD MATE ;) Your next door home made bloggers rock :pRecommend

  • Farjam Mubarik

    @batool zehra

    i live in pakistan and i am free to wear whatever i want to wear in any place i want to wear. so should be the women.
    i dun understand, when a political party lets say PTI calls for people to join them no one says that it is the most disturbing t hing but when someone asks others for hijab the moderate liberals stand up against it??? who are we such hypocrites?Recommend

  • Rameez

    Oh no here we go again,. An political force is using ISLAM to fill up the vote bank. I think JI should be shamed of themself for using Islam for polictial gains.
    I am totally against Hijab, and in an democratic society (democracy in Pakistan started 4 years ago) everyone has choice and the right to dress as they desire.Recommend

  • MrsJ

    I am appalled at all those ‘liberals’ who somehow think the reason a women wears a hijab is solely to protect them from men’s advances or rape etc. It is very very stupid. Same as thinking that some girls wear jeans just to attract the men. It’s about comfort and the notion that modesty is an important aspect of spirituality and then keeping these in mind, we OPT to wear hijab.
    Though it’s wrong to force a woman to observe hijab. The motivation to cover oneself up has to come from within. By observing hijab, i am telling other people that i don’t want people to judge me on the basis of my looks, my hair, my body but my personality, my thinking etc. I don’t see any reason why should i wear skimpy clothes or flaunt my hair? To make myself feel more confident? Seriously?
    The AIM for both men and women is to achieve modesty.
    Moreover, we are doing our part and men are to do theirs i.e. lower their gaze and NOT to treat women as objects. I do not understand why liberals attack HIJAB. They (and everyone else in general) should only condemn those who force their women to do a certain thing. Be it to observe hijab or not to.
    Islam encourages society not to objectify women, which is so prevailing all over the world-including saudi arabia. I hope my point was understood. =)Recommend

  • Shariq


    I never saw any body that does not have any qualification in Medical Science but express himself/ herself on the subject through their write ups.

    But unfortunately when we are talking about Islam (not any other religion) almost every one of us are not less than a PhD on Islam – Just think about it my sister Zehra Batool!!!! Why So?Recommend

  • Turbo Lover

    LoneLiberal: Just what I thought.Recommend

  • trueee

    Ok enough has been said about hijab, forget hijab, thing is societies which are truly free from it, arent a sign of womens freedom either, i read about an organisation in the U.S.where female customer service reps were instructed by their boss to adorn more of sexy clothing to attract customers , i find it equally offensive and opressing, i mean, when will the world stop objectifying women with how they look….we need more of women in the board rooms and holding top positions, sadly in the west or in the islamic world it hasnt been possible, even considering both extremes women were subject to.Recommend

  • nitish

    @nitish:Typo like Recommend

  • John B

    I wish the JI insist on constitutional amendment to PAK on the Hijab matters. Then we all know what would be the reaction of PAK between men and women.

    No one is banning anyone in PAK in wearing hijab now. Yet, how many wear it?

    I do not see PAK female ministers and prominent opinion makers who represent PAK wearing a hijab. All they wear is a stylish scarf on their head which only partially covers their head and they often fuss on it to keep it partially on their head whenever they speak in public forum. Whenever they fidget on their scarf they make a deliberate attempt to keep their head only partially covered. Why ?

    I am all for constitutional amendment on this matter as this will shake up PAK and make them come out clean. Recommend

  • Shuweikh Haqqani

    “No, World Hijab Day has in fact been declared by Pakistan’s biggest religious political party Jamaat-i-Islami”

    This is false, fabricated information. Or maybe the writer made a mistake. World Hijab Day is observed by Muslims the world over. In Pakistan, the group calling for it is Jamaat e Islami, which is a welfare organisation tooRecommend

  • http://dubai saleem

    Hijab is a disgrace for Pakistani women and girls> Any one saying it is not a compulsion is lying or has been brain washed …….Recommend

  • Mulheed

    Those who wear Hijab in reference to Islamic law also validate the Islamic law that enforces hijab on all women. So all those women who are wearing the Hijab for religious reasons are actually showing support for the religious law that forces all women against their free will to wear hijab.

    So if you want to wear hijab, go ahead. But please don’t make it out to be anything about women’s rights, freedom or choice. Just by wearing the hijab you are rejecting women’s rights, democracy and choice.Recommend

  • Mulheed

    @Farjam Please read about the Hijab. Anyone wearing hijab is agreeing with the idea that all women should be forced to wear hijabRecommend

  • Toba Alu


    You really make me laugh. “The AIM for both men and women is to achieve modesty.” Why are men then not wearing the hijab, they have to be modest too. I am definitely in favor of making the hijab compulsory for men and women. I will immediately start my wedding arrangement office. Special attraction is that boys and girls can get their marriage arranged from 5 years onwards (not before 5 years because the risk of dying is too high and therefore too costly). Of course they can only start living together at the age of 12 as JI would like to make that age the legal age for a marriage. Make every day World Hijab Day. :-)Recommend

  • RK Singh

    disgraceful practice.Recommend

  • Vikram

    By observing hijab, i am telling other people that i don’t want people to judge me on the basis of my looks, my hair, my body but my personality, my thinking etc.

    Why can’t Muslim scholars tell Muslim men to judge Muslim women based on their personality, so that a Muslim woman does not have to hide behind a burqa? Does Quran say that Hijab is needed to remind Muslim men to judge Muslim women based on their mind or Man may get out of control and attack her? Why religious police or Islam doesn’t want a Muslim woman to be alone with a Muslim man? Are Muslims afraid that Muslim woman may to start discussing biology with a Muslim man?Recommend

  • Vikram

    There are other alternatives to over ride hijab …………This scholar works for an Islamic University.

    In May 2007 Dr. Izzat Atiyya, lecturer at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, issued a fatwa that suggested that male and female colleagues could use breastfeeding to get around a religious ban on being alone together. The fatwa said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work. “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled. “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”

    In June 2010, in Saudi Arabia the issue arose again, when Sheikh Al Obeikan, adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, advocated office breast-feeding.

    Source wikipediaRecommend

  • Tariq Cheema

    The Assembly for the Protection of Hijab (pro-hijab) decreed Sept. 4. as International Hijab Solidarity Day in 2004, to protest the hijab ban in French schools.

    In 2009 it was proposed the date should become World Hijab Day to mark the death of the “headscarf martyr” Marwa el-Sherbini, an Egyptian woman brutally murdered in a German courtroom, who became the symbol of perceived Islamophobia in the west. The move was approved by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.

    I wonder if Pakistani media ever did raise voice for the rights of women who chose to wear modest clothing or ever write anything about the bias and violence they are subject to because of their head-covering? If mainstream media and intelligentsia of Pakistan will stand blind and eaf to the rights and dignity of pro-hijab women then religious parties or ordinary people will defend those rights in their own way……..

  • Kay

    There is difference between hijab and veil. France banned veil (and not hijab) for women as it covers her face which hides ones identity.

    I do not understand why a woman want to cover her face in public? And if women and like minded men think that hiding face is modesty than Afgan Taliban style shuttle cock burqa is the best outfit for them.Recommend

  • Not a bad guy


    “Dress to please God, not men,”

    If god liked Hijab so much, every new born would have come out wearing a hijab, so stop selling this non-sense. Recommend

  • Diddlypoo


    Serious note, while I support anyone’s right to wear hijab (although personally, I’m not crazy about the REASON or logic behind it), I think this move by JI is simply absurd and a sure shot way to push Pakistan reeling backwards into the stone ages. I say that not because I think hijab is antiquated, but because the notion of compelling people to wear something or NOT wear something is simply RIDICULOUS. Recommend

  • Diddlypoo

    You’re right in what you say; there are elements of objectification of women (and men) in many free societies. But typically, if it’s not a choice of the woman on her own, and she speaks out about her higher ups trying to use her as bait, the higher ups don’t typically get away scot-free because it’s not considered okay when it does happen. Point is, attitude seems to be a bit different in traditional societies such as Pakistan. No matter how many fingers are pointed to the negative elements present in western societies, women there are free to make their own choice, whether they choose to be a sex object or a higher up in a corporate setting or presiding as a judge. Choice. That’s the keyword here. Those women who have bosses or whoever telling them to dress sexy have a choice. Do it, or quit and find work you’re respected in. Traditional societies rarely ever award women the freedom of choice regarding most aspects of their life, be it clothing, education, job, spouse, etc. Recommend

  • http://Hotmail Citizen

    Making it constitutional to wear Hijab? Why not make lowering of gaze constitutional too? It is a two way thing after all! Why don’t people get it that wearing a Hijab is purely a personal choice, and that you can’t force someone to do it. So much for Freedom of Choice!Recommend

  • asim

    @Dr Shaikh:
    Exactly, I strongly second your opinion and I don’t know from where they catch these comments writers, just see how much liberal notion is being portrayed in all of these comments.Recommend

  • user

    what the hell is a ‘World Hijab Day’?
    I wear hijab since many years now and this is the most ridiculous thing I have heard.
    Religion has become such a big joke in Pakistan. What’s worse is that it makes Islam as a whole, look bad in front of the world. Recommend

  • KS

    “No, World Hijab Day has in fact been declared by Pakistan’s biggest religious political party Jamaat-i-Islami to “counter the infidels’ conspiracies against the Islamic tenets”.”

    What a factually incorrect piece, a sub-editor with a LUMS degree could at least verify the facts before posting here. WHD is not by any means declared by JI and if you didn’t mean that then please do something about your expression because it’s unclear.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Why does everyone take the Hijab keeps me safe line?

    Just admit it that Hijab is to please God. If it indeed so safe then rape shouldn’t have taken place in Pakistan. But, it does. Men will be men, some will turn in to beasts, no matter you wear a Hijab or a Burqa or a bikini.

    The countries with the highest appreciation of women’s power and value are the European countries. Not many wear the Burqa or a Hijab there. The education and social structure is such that women feel safe regardless of what they wear.

    So, this line that Hijab protects women is utterly untrue.

    Wear the Hijab or Burqa all you want, but do not overstate for what it is.

    Many non-Muslims argue, correctly, that the Hijab is a symbol of oppression. It is the starting point of a patriarchal state. Women are forced by parents or forced by society or Holy Scriptures to suffer for the fault of the Man. Why should Women wear the Burqa, not Men?

    Invoking the name of God is the surest and easiest way to get things done in Islamic countries. This applies to the Burqa or Hijab too.Recommend

  • citizen

    Why not “end corruption day” , “equal rights for minority day”? Why JUI is all silent on other important matters? it was ridiculous to celebrate World Hijab Day . My God when our country will break shackles !! Recommend

  • Anonymous

    Somebody who is very clear about Hijab etc. , Kindly represent muslims on this forum i.e. above URL.

    Its badly needed.Recommend

  • sajid

    If someone wants to wear hijab then be it. BUT if someone does not want to wear it then we should accept that too.

    The most hilarious thing is that one of the posters said ban mini-skirts. Ban mini-skirts?? In pakistan? Seriously where have these pious people from JI been going too because I never saw a mini-skirt in Pakistan. And if they are talking about western world then they have no right to tell western women to not wear skirts just like they want the right to wear hijab.Recommend

  • RK Singh


  • Sid

    just a question ” a lot of people talk about the rights of muslims in europe, america to wear their hijab etc etc” …what about the right of non muslims to not wear it in muslim countries!!

    Hypocracy anyone???Recommend

  • p r sharma

    @Dr Shaikh:
    conspiracy theory has rooted deep in tour mind. There is a need for its treatmentRecommend

  • Gamers

    Really boring, can’t believe I wasted my time reading thisRecommend

  • Vikram

    @Citizen: Making it constitutional to wear Hijab? Why not make lowering of gaze constitutional too? It is a two way thing after all! Why don’t people get it that wearing a Hijab is purely a personal choice, and that you can’t force someone to do it. So much for Freedom of Choice!

    When wearing of Hijab is required by law, then police will be allowed to arrest and beat women for not wearing burqa. Watch the following video, where a girl is crying and religious police is arresting the girl in Iran. This is start of talibanization of Pakistan.

  • sars

    Hmm it seems to be a contradiction in terms when a woman and her daughters attend a rally for the hijab.Is it done at the behest of the father/husband, who is the one to allow and transport and support, to state they are doing it from free will.
    Do these ladies attend rallies to condone terrorism, promote understanding between sects and faiths.
    Do they attend rallies for banning sexual harrasment at the workplace, or women only buses, or to promote literacy, or public bathrooms or prevent honour killing.
    If the Hijab is the only thing you are willing to rally for , then just wear it over all your senses and be done with it.
    The less you tell me the happier i will be about your supposed “own choice”Recommend

  • malik

    Regarding the rally: How can we be so sure that those inside the hijab are really women ?

    It could be men also !!!Recommend

  • Vikram

    @International Observer: its nature than created a man to be attracted to the opposite sex.

    Some people think they can change this natural instinct by covering up a woman. This is 2012 if men want their women to be pious just use a men repellent oil and make up Recommend

  • Vikram

    @Dr Shaikh: Are you a PhD in Islamic studies or something?Recommend

  • Raajorshi Naarayan Choudhury

    I strongly second your opinion, in other words this only encourages ambiguity and thus with the case of being in public the hijab only adds to the fact that apart from protecting the modesty of the women in public places it may( again not always but a high probability) add to the crime rates. I mean let’s face it under the veil you really do not know whether it is Miranda Kerr or Arnold Schwarzenegger, so just that rational minds gain victory here one must seriously look into this delicate problem where it is not just the modesty we are talking about but also safety for a large number of people. have nothing against customs but solely the fact that again here the customs might be used as means to wreck havoc against humanity.Recommend

  • Raajorshi Naarayan Choudhury

    Again strongly support your views, the chances of you seeing these “ladies” in the realm of understanding is slim to say the least. Suspicion towards other groups and camouflaging years of oppression as simply putting it off as one’s own “choice” seems pretty strange to say the least. at the bare minimum if attention needs to be paid to something it needs the study of each other’s customs and practices, while trying to learn from the better ideals of the non-islamic world and not just blindly putting anything non-islamic as derogatory and only themselves serving to tighten the shackles of subservience and keep this vicious circle running.Recommend

  • http://no Rasheed ahmed mallah

    Love PAKsitanRecommend

  • http://no Rasheed ahmed mallah


  • hassan

    If the purpose of hijab is to ward of lecherous men, there are easy ways for women to do it;
    just go to a dentist and remove two front teeth and no guy will look at you again. Or shave off head hair and do some such thing to make yourself deliberately ugly. Don’t worry about your bf or husband, they will love even more, seeing you so pure and pious.

    Or, you just eat too much, develop double chins and become a fat aunty, you will not be putting the ideas of satan in the minds of men and you are forever relieved !!Recommend

  • Jennifer

    If you want to wear the veil; stay in your Freaking house..!! Recommend

  • Diddlypoo

    Let’s try this yet again ET Mods, it wasn’t a rhetorical question, I’d actually really like to know why your standards are different for some people vs. others? You seem to pick and choose comments you deem appropriate without exercising the same caution for other comments…? Posting a trolls fairly vulgar comment regarding a topless day for women is ok, but someone mentions shame shame nudey men and it’s a problem now…? Would love an answer as this is now the 3rd attempt of mine to have you post a comment you haven’t twice now, with no reason whatsoever. What rule did I break? I ask because I’m a bit miffed at your moderating standards. I’ve noticed this before on other posts as well. Maybe third bloody times the charm. Pitiful standards. Recommend

  • Rana Usman

    If some group is preaching hijab, why do you have problem?
    Why making an issue out of nothing?Recommend

  • Micha

    It must have been a shear conincidence, but at or around the 4th of September I had the pleasure to meet a large group of Arab families who came from the West-Bank to spend a day at Tel Aviv’s Banana beach. The woman were wearing their hijabs with pride, and did not had less fun splashing in the sea than the other people at the beach wearing standard swimming suits. I call the foto I made there “Wet Hijab Day” and you may find it at my blog

    Unfortunately, I could not talk to them, since they were not fluently in English. But all I can say is that for them the Hijab seemed to be more a part of the traditional way of dressing, rather than a label that stands for a particular religious standard.Recommend

  • Saadi

    Hi, Let Me explain tht World Hijab day is being introduced by OIC worldwide and not by JI. The writer shd cmplt oits info on the said thing. Its being remembered for the remembrance of Marva Sharbini, which was stabbed brutly by an extremist Western non muslim in front of court. V.Sad tht we dont know the facts while it comes to Islamic traditions.Recommend